From the Wife-Carrying Competition in Finland to the worldwide sport of extreme ironing, the spirit of competition is alive and well outside the world of the more … traditional … sports.
First introduced in Sonkajärvi, Finland, wife carrying is a sport in which male competitors race through obstacles while each carrying a female teammate -- not necessarily their wife. Different types of carrying are included in the competition: piggyback, fireman's carry, or Estonian-style (pictured here). Major wife-carrying competitions are held in Sonkajärvi (where the prize is the woman’s weight in beer), Hong Kong, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine.
Swamp soccer is exactly what it sounds like: soccer played in a swamp or bog. It began as an exercise routine for soldiers since the squishy ground makes the sport more demanding, but it has since grown with the Swamp Soccer World Championship played annually on Vuorisuo Bog in Hyrynsalmi, Finland.
The town of Ottery St Mary, England, holds annual events around Guy Fawkes Night. The festivities include a 17th-century tradition of carrying barrels soaked in tar and set on fire while racing through the town. The barrels can only be carried by those born in Ottery St Mary or those who have lived there for most of their lives, with generations of the same family often competing through the years.
Extreme ironing is part extreme sport and part performance art. The competition involves taking an ironing board to a remote location and ironing clothing. It all started in 1997 in Leicester, England, by resident Phil Shaw when he wanted to go rocking climbing instead of doing house chores … so he decided to combine them. It has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with participants vying for the most extreme locale -- ironing on mountainsides, in streets and even underwater.
From November 25-26, more than 100 Santa Clauses gather in Samnaun, Switzerland, to compete in ClauWau, the Santa Claus World Championship. Competitors sled, sculpt, deliver presents and climb chimneys, like those pictured here.
Mobile phone throwing is yet another sport that originated in Finland. It began in 2000 and has since grown internationally. Competitors throw mobile phones and are judged on distance or technique. The phones used vary, but they must be heavier than 7 oz. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships are held annually in Savonlinna, Finland.
The first air guitar competitions were held in the 1980s in Sweden and the US and have since continued to grow internationally. The Air Guitar World Championships Network, made up of 20 countries including Finland, the USA, New Zealand, Canada, Romania and Brazil, among others, organizes the competitions -- which follow a sophisticated scoring system. On a 6-point scale, competitors play for 2 1-minute rounds and are judged on technical merit, mimesmanship, stage presence and artistry.
Held annually since 1978, the Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race where participants run from the building’s ground floor to the 86th-floor observation deck, covering a vertical distance of 1,050 feet in 1,576 steps. The racers like to think of themselves as both runners and climbers. The current record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake in 2003.
Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, MI, holds the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship every year. At this year’s annual championship, the winner claimed the title with a spit of 69 feet.
Held annually in Swaton, England, since 2006, the Egg-Throwing Championship is presented by the World Egg Throwing Federation and is followed up by a beer festival of 12 types of ale from Swaton, Heckington and Sleaford microbreweries.